As we say goodbye to rainy spring and hello to sunny summer, getting outside with the kids is a great way to help them stay engaged and enthused. Social distancing is hard on everyone, and both kids and parents face unique family challenges. Bringing some of your activities out of doors can be a great way to stay refreshed and burn off some energy during the day!
Now that many areas are enjoying warmer days and sunshine, it’s the perfect time to ease off on the screen time that’s kept them occupied indoors, and instead employ the great outdoors to keep kids busy and absorbed. It can be hard being cooped up together 24/7 under the Covid-19 restrictions, and everyone can get cranky - including parents! Spending some time outside can have a positive and restorative effect on everyone, and is especially great for children’s development and learning. Of course, the types of activities and level of independence your kids have while outdoors, will depend on their age and other factors, such as whether you’re in your backyard or a local park!
Depending on your child’s age, they may be having a tough time understanding the need for social distancing from their friends and playmates. If that’s a possibility with your child, you may want to stick with video ‘visits’ for now; they’re still a useful way to reassure your children that they are cared about and missed. However, if your family is comfortable with distanced get-togethers, what better a place than at your local park?
- Scavenger hunt - you can set up a scavenger hunt anywhere for your kids, and easily scale up or down the difficulty based on age, or modify depending on if it’s a park or your property. (You can even slip a toy or two that’s been sitting out, onto the list to get them to tidy their backyard playthings!) By including items like “an interesting leaf” or “the best stick you can find,” you can encourage your child to engage with the natural world, and then discuss their findings and why they liked their choices.
- Water play - a favorite activity for kids is splashing around with water, and it can be a great way to keep your kids laughing. If you’re not near a convenient or safe body of water, letting kids play in sprinklers, backyard portable pools, or even puddles, are also fun options. Water activities are great for sensory play - fill up a storage container with a hose in your backyard and get them to see what will float (not including the dog!). Part of the appeal of mud puddles and playing with mud in general, is that it allows kids to develop fine motor skills. It can also be very calming and meditative for children, which helps alleviate any stress they may be feeling. You may even find yourself making mud pies with dirty knees alongside them!
- Identification - spending time outside together can be a great opportunity for everyone to learn something about your local flora and fauna. Bugs can be especially interesting to little ones who are much closer to the ground than us ‘grown ups’! Setting out to learn more about the birds, bugs, and plants you encounter on your adventures is a special opportunity to bond together. Some areas will have informational placards about your local residents, or you can bring identification books with you. You can also check out online resources later together when you get home, to see who and what you encountered, and their role in your local ecosystem.
- Picnics - this simple but beneficial option helps everyone get some fresh air and outside time without investing a lot of energy, while easily staying distanced from others. It can be as easy as bringing a blanket and container lunches into your backyard, or heading out of the house with a picnic basket and a packed meal. Depending on what’s in season and available in your area, you can even enlist your kids to help with berry picking as part of your outing. Getting to sit down and eat a meal with your children outdoors, in a new environment, can provide an opportune moment to check in with them and see how they’re feeling.
- Obstacle course - though many playgrounds are still closed right now, if you have an outside area with enough room, a homemade obstacle course can be an excellent way for kids to practice large muscle movements and get some higher-intensity activity in. Make sure you’re creating a safe environment; you don’t need to start building a jungle gym at home from scratch, but you can include items for them to run around, jump over, balance on, or crawl through without risk of injury.
- Bubbles - whether you have some pre-made bubble solution at home, or you’re mixing your own easy homemade bubble liquid, blowing bubbles and chasing them can keep kids captivated for a long time! If you don’t have bubble wands at home, you and your children can make some with pipe cleaners or other household items. You can also add food colouring to the solution to make it even cooler-looking for the kids!
The current global circumstances are hard on everyone, including children, especially when their daily routines such as school and playdates are impacted. They may even be experiencing some anxiety, so time spent together as a family is a good way to help them feel supported. Take the time to discuss their feelings and any worries they may be having.
Getting time to play outside and share projects and games with parents can be helpful at relieving tension, as well as building skills for kids who have lost their regular activities. You can also consider supplementing with a supportive adaptogenic blend formulated especially for kids, which can help alleviate stress and support their resilience.